Klinsmann: I'm confident USA can win the group

Jurgen Klinsmann has defended his USA players’ effort in the 4-0 thrashing by Costa Rica and insisted they can still finish first in CONCACAF’s race to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™. The defeat in San Jose, which was preceded by a 2-1 loss at home to Mexico in their curtain-raiser, left USA bottom of the six-side ‘Hexagonal’.

“There was nobody giving up at that time,” Klinsmann told The New York Times. “That was a normal emotional situation when things go wrong. When get the second goal there, it was like a knock in your neck.

“I played those games many, many times. The whole stadium goes bananas. It’s totally human to put your head down for a second. And then they counter us for two more. Those games will always happen. We just couldn’t stop it, but the players did not stop trying.

“What you need to do is stick to the facts. Soccer is emotional and a lot of people make conclusions without knowing anything about the inside of the team or the sport. The fact is, we lost two games. I’m not afraid. I still believe we will get the points we need to qualify, and I am even confident we could win the group.

“We are coaching a team through a transitional phase. We still have to break in younger players. We still have to look for leadership for the team. There are still a lot of technical and chemistry challenges ahead that are normal in this time period. And you put the final pieces together as you go towards Russia, which I am absolutely sure we will do.”

USA return to Russia 2018 qualifying action in March, when they host Honduras and visit Panama. They are bidding to qualify for an eighth straight World Cup. They reached the semi-finals at Uruguay 1930 and eliminated Mexico en route to the quarters at Korea/Japan 2002.

Obama chat Klinsmann recently returned Stateside from Berlin, where he attended a state dinner with USA President Barack Obama and German chancellor Angela Merkel. He presented Obama with a Germany jersey and Merkel with a USA one. The former Inter Milan and Tottenham Hotspur striker revealed the soccer-following American couldn’t resist asking him about the disappointment against Los Ticos.

Klinsmann recalled: “He said, ‘It didn’t go well down there in Costa Rica, did it?’ And I said, ‘Nope, Mr. President – it didn’t go well at all.’”

Klinsmann played a crucial role in West Germany’s conquering of Italy 1990. He is one of only three men to have scored at least three goals in three World Cups, along with Brazil’s Ronaldo and compatriot Miroslav Klose.